How to Help Pets Grieve a Loss

Grief is not an emotion that is reserved for humans. Animals grieve the passing of one of their own and even the passing of a human. So, when there is a loss in a home, animals feel it too. It could be another dog or cat that was part of their pack. It could be the loss of an owner or another member of the family. How can you tell if your pet is grieving?

Signs your pet is in mourning.

  • Appetite changes

  • Lethargy

  • Crying or howling

  • Destruction of items

  • Staring out the window or door

  • Separation anxiety

  • Pacing and searching the house

  • Changes in grooming habits (especially cats)

  • Eliminating waste inside the house

What can we do about it? After all, no pet owner wants to see their pet in distress. Also, animals are sensitive creatures and know when we are sad so that adds even more to their sorrow.

What you can do to help.

Let them say goodbye. An animal knows when another animal is in pain and even some know when one is about to die. Let your pet sniff and touch the deceased animal to let them know they are gone and to say goodbye. If an owner or house member has passed, consider letting them go to the funeral home or gravesite.

Talk to them. We talk to our pets every day. We tell them when we are leaving and when we’ll be back. We tell them about our day. So, why should this be any different? Tell them how you are feeling. Tell them what has happened and what it will mean for your day-to-day life. We often don’t give animals enough credit for how much they understand. And sometimes they just need to hear in your voice that it is going to be okay.

Don’t reinforce their mourning. Yes, it is extremely hard to do but if you go to them when they are whining or pacing, for example, it will reinforce this behavior. Let them grieve just as you let yourself grieve.

Add extra exercise. We all know that when we get in a funk or a bad mood that exercise will often snap us out of it. Making sure to keep them stimulated whether by an extra walk or going to a new park helps their brain reset and gets them out of the house.

Extra love. When your pet is calm and not showing signs of being in distress, give them extra pettings, snuggles and hugs. Touching them and letting positive energy flow from your fingers will help reassure them that you are in this together and going to get through it together.

Consider herbal supplements or conferring with your vet. There are some great herbal supplements that can help soothe your pet. They are all natural and don’t have any unwanted side effects. If you want to consider medication, your vet can talk to you about anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications.

Consider fostering. It is never a good idea to jump into getting a new pet right after losing one. You both need time to process your grief and return to emotional wellness. However, sometimes fostering a pet can help after a sufficient time has passed. Especially fostering young animals, special needs animals, or animals that have been abused can help both you and your pet focus on them and really feel that you are being of some use.

No one wants to see their pet in distress especially when you are feeling the same way. You will get through it and will grow even stronger together. Be there for each other and it will be okay.

Consider reading: How Animals Grieve.

Parting Tails provides memorial gifts as well as resources to honor your beloved pet, process your loss, and heal your heart.

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